SELEUCUS I NIKATOR from Europos to the Hellenistic world


What determines the fate of a man? His beginnings?
A divine sign? His bodily strength?
The strength of the soul? The brain?
The will? His education?
His choices? His opportunities and the ability
to recognize their value? Is a man born a leader
or does he become one? Babylon. 323 BC In the center of a vast kingdom
that few had dared to dream of and even fewer
would have attempted to create, Alexander the Great
draws his last breath. Numerous contestants
crave to succeed him but Alexander decides to leave his royal ring
to one of his generals, Perdikkas. In time, many would contest his rule
and one of them was Seleucus, son of Antiochos and Laodike,
from Europos. But who is Seleucus? Who was his father Antiochos,
and what about his birthplace, Europos? The city of Europeans? Only a few kilometres from Pella,
heart of the Macedonian kingdom, Europos is in a fertile region
inhabited since prehistoric times and incorporated by Philip the second
into his powerful kingdom. Seleucus’ father, Antiochos,
was a member of the Macedonian aristocracy. It is possible, therefore, that his son was probably
one of the Royal Pages the guards of the king, young men trained as an elite unit
of the Macedonian army, while the teachings
of the great philosopher and thinker, Aristotle, will deeply mark their spirit. Seleucus, a man of robust build,
equal only to that of a bull, would follow Alexander in his campaign
towards the fabled world of the East and reach with him as far as only Dionysos
and Herakles had gone before: a place conceived in human imagination
as something mythical; India! Seleucus would go back there 20 years later,
but this time as a king. How will he eventually manage
to create something he had not even imagined when he set off
with Alexander in his great campaign? Seleucus holds the title of chiliarch of Perdikkas
when the latter is appointed guardian of the kings. He would conspire against him though,
along with Perdikkas’ dissatisfied soldiers, in an act
that would change Seleucus’ fate forever. The brutal murder of Perdikkas in his tent. Soon after, Alexander’s Successors
would divide the empire at Triparadeisos in Syria, in 320 BC. Seleucus is given
the Satrapy of Babylonia. A region with a millennial history
and remarkable tradition, The old Macedonian kingdom
is offered to Cassander. The wider region of Thrace
to Lysimachos. Ptolemy took over
his beloved Egypt. Antigonus the One-Eyed
took control of Phrygia. Feeling left out,
and faithful to Alexander’s vision, Antigonus sets out to re-unite the empire. Τhis decision marks
the beginning of a period of conflicts, clashes, alliances and strife, with Antigonus fervently struggling
for the lion’s share. The other Successors
are soon to respond. Awaiting the inevitable final clash,
Seleucus paves his way towards kingship. Imitating Alexander,
he founds his first royal city, bearing his name,
in 305-304 BC by the River Tigris: The fabled Seleucia-on-the-Tigris. At the same time, he begins his own expedition
towards the mythical East. His aim was to secure the far ends of his kingdom,
before attacking Antigonus, and to strengthen his army. He signs a treaty
with the Indian king Sandrakottos, and is offered 500 war elephants
in exchange for land. He allies with Cassander, Lysimachus
and Ptolemy and moves against Antigonus. In 301 BC, one of the greatest battles
of the ancient Greek world takes place at Ipsos. Two Macedonian armies are facing each other.
Two armies of almost equal strength. But the war elephants
give Seleucus and his allies the advantage. The soldiers seem to have lost the ground
beneath their feet. There is nowhere to run. Who can stand against
500 enormous beasts? Antigonus charges on and dies. A cycle of blood and death has come to an end,
with Seleucus the winner. The greater part of the vast kingdom
is now under his control. But he must organize it. He soon founds dozens of cities
based on the ancient Greek model, with theaters, baths, markets and gymnasia
where the youths would get military training while the king
is worshiped as a god. Dozens of lighthouses spreading Hellenism
in a sea of disparate cultures. And among them, the city of Dura-Europos
on the banks of the River Euphrates. It is here, a city honoured
with the name of his birthplace, where Seleucus was worshiped for centuries,
as builder and founder. In his own special way,
Seleucus kept Alexander’s vision alive. A vision of a new nation
merging West and East, as Alexander intended with the mixed marriages
he organized at Susa. It was then when Seleucus
was given Apama as his wife, the daughter of the Satrap of Bactria,
Spitamenes. And he was the only one of the Successors
not to abandon his Iranian wife. Maybe because he shared
Alexander’s vision. Maybe because
he really loved her. Or maybe because she was the mother
of his son and heir, Antiochus the first. Seleucus was one of the first Successors
to acquire divine status and honors. It is not a coincidence that sacred symbols of India,
like the elephant, and symbols of divine presence
from Mesopotamian religions, like the horns, were passed on and incorporated
into the Seleucid tradition. Tangible symbols of the new royal power,
on the threshold between the human and the divine. Nearing 80 years old, but still driven
by the fervor and ambition that forged the generation
of Alexander’s successors, Seleucus begins a new campaign. This time towards Asia Minor and Thrace,
probably aiming at Macedonia, his homeland. He turns against his old ally, Lysimachus
and defeats him in the battle of Kouropedion in 281 BC, expanding his kingdom
through new riches and lands. What drives him there? His desire to make Alexander’s vision a reality
and unite all Macedonian dominions? Or the simple need of a man
to return after decades spent in foreign lands and complete life’s long journey
back home? He would not live
to see his ancestral lands again. His death came outside
Lysimacheia in Thrace, where he was murdered
by Ptolemy Keraunos son of his beloved ally and protector,
Ptolemy the first. Seleucus the first the Nicator
who was born in 358 BC at Europos. With a birthmark
in the shape of an anchor on his thigh, as a sign of his divine descent
from Apollo according to legend. Having conquered and founded numerous cities
and the legendary dynasty of the Seleucids. He died a hero. In the minds of the peoples he ruled
he was Nicator, maker of a new era,
the “time of the Greeks”, and history marked him as the “greatest king among those
who succeeded Alexander”.

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